As of now, most of the attention directed at the Astros’ farm system centers on outfielder Kyle Tucker and fireballer Forrest Whitley, and for good reason. Both players carry first round pedigree and have largely made a mockery of the minor leagues since being drafted by Houston. However, the system is a bit top heavy at the moment and most of the names that tend to fall directly behind Whitley and Tucker, while great prospects in their own right, do not carry the type of upside necessary to reach the upper echelons of national prospect lists, with the possible exception of J.B. Bukauskas. In fact, the Astros have few players in the system that have significant helium potential at the moment even at lower levels, particularly after the Ryan Pressly trade in which they gave up two players whose physical gifts score highly.
It’s fair to wonder about where the system will rank in a year’s time, but there exists one player already in the system with the potential to headline the farm and continue the steady stream of impact players to Houston- Freudis Nova, the young Dominican infielder that Luhnow and co. signed for north of $1 million in the summer of 2016. The Astros have moved away from high-dollar international players somewhat under Luhnow, and Nova’s was one of the biggest bonuses the current regime has handed out. Of course it’s not wise to judge a player’s talent purely by his bonus figure (Ariel Ovando, anyone?), but the fact that the Astros’ front office was willing to go to seven figures on him shows how highly they think of the 6’1” teen.
Often compared to past prodigies such as Hanley Ramirez, it was Nova’s bat that earned him the big payday two years ago. The infielder displays a balanced, level cut that stays in the zone a long time while producing plenty of power and has immediately evident natural athleticism. He currently plays shortstop, but like many powerful prospects at the position, more likely projects as a third baseman higher up the ladder, and he has more than enough bat to be a regular at either spot.
After getting his feet wet in the DSL last season, Nova made the move stateside this year, playing with the Astros’ GCL club for the entirety of his campaign. GCL statistics mean little, but nonetheless Nova’s season line was encouraging. The 18-year old posted a .308/.331/.466 slash line, evidencing the loud hit and power tools that made him a sough-after commodity on the IFA market. The one knock on his performance would be that he drew just 6 walks in 152 plate appearances, but it’s not uncommon for young players who are performing well with the bat to swing away, and his DSL walk numbers were much stronger, and I expect that when he faces a bit more adversity in full-season ball we will actually see the walk numbers rise in short order.
It’s a dangerous game projecting players who are in their developmental infancy such as Nova, and any number of things could halt his progression in its tracks between now and his potential major league debut, but at this point in time I’d be very surprised if he wasn’t a top 3-5 prospect in the system in a year and potentially receiving significant national buzz. There is little to go off at this point- finding video of GCL competition is a tall order and short-season rookie ball statistics offer very little insight- but we know that Nova has all the tools in the world, and we know that he acclimated well to playing stateside in 2018. He likely won’t pace his league in offensive production next year, but I expect he’ll receive an aggressive assignment and prove that he is up to the task, flashing his tantalizing power potential and quickly leapfrogging scores of lower-upside players in both Astros and national rankings. The next few drafts will be key in continuing the rich minor league pipeline the Astros have now enjoyed for half a decade, but they may not need to find another crown jewel through that avenue just yet.
Addendum from AstrosFuture
Freudis Nova was signed as a high upside prospect and has, for the most part, lived up to those expectations. This year his made his stateside debut hitting .308 with a .797 OPS in 41 games. He showed some power with 6 HR and stole 9 bases. Hopefully we will see him make his full-season debut in 2019 and see his stock really soar.